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Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield at a point of no return

Vincent Frank

It was just earlier this week that Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield penned what seemed to be a goodbye letter to the city and its fans.

The former No. 1 pick posted a lengthy essay on social media amid reports that the Browns were meeting wth embattled Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson ahead of a potential blockbuster trade.

At that point, the Texans had only granted permission for Watson to meet with teams who had offered them an acceptable bounty in a potential trade for the quarterback. As with everyone else, Mayfield saw the writing on the wall.

“I have given this franchise everything I have. That is something I’ve always done at every stage, and at every level. And that will not change wherever I take my next snap.

Whatever happens… I just want to say thank you to the fans who truly embraced who I am and the mentality that aligned so well with this city’s hard working people. Cleveland will always be a part of Emily and my story. And we will always be thankful for the impact it has had and will have in our lives.”

Baker Mayfield on Twitter (March 15, 2022)

That certainly read like a Dear John letter. Immediately after said post, reports surfaced that the Browns were going to move off Mayfield regardless of whether they landed Watson in a trade. Apparently, the front office wants an “adult” to man the quarterback position — whatever that means.

Fast forwad a couple days, and the Browns have missed out on acquiring Watson. They were notified Thursday morning that the team was out of the sweepstakes.

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baker mayfield, cleveland browns drama
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
  • Cleveland openly flirted with pulling off a blockbuster trade for another quarterback when its supposed “franchise guy” was still under contract for another season. The team didn’t do this behind the scenes. It was out in the open for everyone to see, Mayfield included.
  • We know full well that teams have to do their homework behind the scenes. That’s especially true when they have a quarterback set to enter his contract year who struggled the previous season. Even then, the outward nature of their Watson flirtation doesn’t paint the organization in the best of lights.

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Cleveland Browns’ public leaks will do nothing to quiet Baker Mayfield drama

cleveland browns, baker mayfield
Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Immediately after it was noted that Cleveland missed out on the Watson sweepstakes, leaks came out from the organization on a near never-ending loop. The idea was to quiet perceived drama between the Browns and their quarterback.

One leak indicates that Cleveland told Mayfield’s agent the team was only exploring top-tier quarterback options such as Watson and views him as their starting quarterback moving forward.

As the President would say, “that’s a bunch of malarkey.” Various reports throughout this whole process have indicated that Cleveland has been looking for an upgrade behind the scenes. It’s not hard to blame the team given how Mayfield played as a fourth-year quarterback in 2021.

Even then, attempting to leak information as a way to solve this rift will likely be seen through by Mayfield and his camp. Hence, the quarterback’s aforementioned social media post.

Baker Mayfield contract situation

Outside of his regerssion last season, Mayfield’s contract has to be seen as one of the major backstories here. The two sides failed to come to terms on an extension last offseason when the quarterback was coming off a career-best performance en route to leading Cleveland to its first playoff appearance since back in 2002.

  • Baker Mayfield stats (2020): 63% completion, 3,563 yards, 26 TD, 8 INT, 95.9 rating

Even before news of Cleveland’s interest in Watson broke, the team was not engaged in extension talks with Mayfield. That obviously won’t be the case moving forward in the offseason. This means that he’ll be a lame duck heading into the 2022 season — potentially setting up more drama in the process.

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If Baker Mayfield isn’t the answer, who is?

cleveland browns could make a play for baker mayfield
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

That’s the biggest question here. Short of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan becoming available, the options are severely limited for Cleveland.

The team has been linked to San Francisco 49ers signal caller Jimmy Garoppolo. It makes sense given that he’s a proven winner and is, by all accounts, “an adult.”

Garoppolo also has a working knowledge of head coach Kevin Stefanski’s terminology on offense and the scheme. It’s pretty much the same system he worked under with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. That can’t be lost on this.

The question is just how much of an upgrade would Garoppolo be over Mayfield? That’s obviously an open question.

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Either way, it’s become clear that Mayfield and the Browns are at a point of no return. The team’s flirtation with Watson coupled with Mayfield’s lengthy social media post pretty much puts to bed any long-term marriage between the two sides.

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